Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another New Year ....

Well, folks, it looks like 2011 is almost in the can, and it's time to ring in a new one.  Let's kick the old one to the curb and start over.

Let's face it - we all make resolutions for the new year, whether we admit it or not.  I'm no different, as I have a list of things I would like to do / improve in 2012.  Whether I will find success is a topic for a future post ...

Anyway, let's get on with it, shall we?

In 2012 I will:
  • Be a better disciple for Jesus.
  • Be a better husband, father, brother, friend.
  • Be more genuine in my dealings with people in general.
  • Take better care of myself (exercise, eat well, shave - sometimes, dress better)
  • Pay my bills on time.
Is it going to be easy?  Probably not, even though the list is purposely un-detailed. I'm not a detail person, so I figure I'll improve my odds if I don't provide specifics, ya know?

So, that's it.  My list of resolutions for 2012.  Sounds easy, right? 

Right. (Totally).


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Some Thoughts About Christmas 2011 ...

Christmas 2011 has come and gone, and I'm left with that "it-didn't-really-feel-like-Christmas" feeling.  I don't know ... there wasn't a warm, cozy feeling this time around.  I'd like to say it would have been different if Dad were here, but I don't think it would have made a difference.  We just came unglued is all.  Everyone came undone and lost the relationships that once, at least on the surface, seemed so important.

Many of you already know that we are not living in our own, comfortable home, we don't have our things, our beds, our chairs or tables, or our Christmas decorations and lights.  We did, however, buy a small pre-lit tree, and find the stockings to fill with assorted items that will be great fun to open, when we get back to NY.

The worship services were wonderful this year, but I can't help being put off by the fact that we were asked whether we wanted to have a service on Christmas.  I - I don't know what else to say about that, except ... "Are you kidding me?"

No birthday cake for Jesus this year, a time-honored family tradition, gone by the wayside. (*sigh*)

Sometimes (read "many times") I miss the old days, the days when it was fun to go shopping downtown for Christmas gifts.  The stores were decked with holiday lights, there was music playing in the streets, each gift came with a box (often with free gift wrapping as well), and there was a sense of community - a friendly air around town.

Christmas morning would come and everyone would be bursting with excitement to open gifts, not only to get things, but also to see the reaction on the faces of loved ones as they opened their gifts.  We would gather at Nana's house for dinner and all the cousins played all day long. In the week that followed, we would visit our aunt's and uncles for parties and fun.  Ahhhh, the good old days.

This Christmas did NOT resemble those Christmases.  At all.

2012 can't get here soon enough for me.

End of rant

... Later.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

One Tractor-Trailer

Today was a busy Christmas Eve.  We had much to do and not enough time.  Even at this writing, the car hasn't been packed for our Christmas trip to Grandmom's house.

On any given day, when crunch time comes the frantic pace increases and nerves wear thin.  Tonight was no exception.  It was time to get dressed for church, and the children began their usual ritual of running around, screaming, teasing one another, and basically doing everything except getting ready for church.

The result?

Crying children and frustrated parents.


No supper until after church (there wasn't enough time to drive thru McDonald's because they wasted so much time getting ready).

As we drove down the interstate toward our church (about a half-hour drive)  we passed a rest area.  It's the same dingy, old, campground-like rest area that we pass every week as we make the same drive.  Tonight, however, something caught my attention.

There was one tractor-trailer parked, lit up with full parking lights - you know, the lights they turn on when they are settling in to sleep for the night.

Christmas Eve.  One truck parked at the rest area.  Alone.

Christmas Eve.

Suddenly my hectic day didn't seem so bad.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Simple Christmas

Christmas at our house will be simpler this year than in years past.  Perhaps it’s because we don’t have a lot of cash to spend (a flood, a fire, and an extra rent check take a toll on family finances), or maybe it’s because we aren’t in our own home, surrounded by our familiar belongings.  Perhaps it’s the artificial tree, sparsely bedecked with dollar-store ornaments that are strange and unlike our usual collection of handmade adornments.  
Gifts will be few but meaningful, as each family member, young and old, realizes the blessings that we have in each other. 
Our children are less materialistic than before; they have lost so much, yet gained a deeper understanding of what is important.  Sure, they have their moments of selfishness and their usual bouts of stubbornness and “she-took-my-doll” episodes, but they have an appreciation of our situation and the incredible blessing it is to have a doll in the first place.
Yes, it will be a simple Christmas, and we will enjoy it more than ever before.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Who Said Anything About Change?

Change?? Who said anything about change??

Those of you who know me, understand that I sometimes like to stir the pot, poke the hornet nest, shake the soda can; I like to change stuff - move it around and keep things interesting.  Maybe it's my messy nature that makes me do it, or my restless tendency to to be busy all the time.  Maybe it's too much caffeine (Nah).

I removed several posts that have proven to be controversial and that have caused some of my readers to get ticked off (not that there's anything wrong with that). They aren't gone completely; rather, I placed them in my super-secret underground vault, where I can work on them (or not) and repost them (or not) as nondescript, unremarkable, conventional, democratic ideas (yeah, right), at a later point in time.

It isn't that I am shy about causing a hullabaloo.  I merely want the entire process to be easier for me (after all it is my blog, so it should be easy for me), and justification is never easy.

 I want my readers to know that I will still be posting marriage stuff; not of my own hand, but likely a weekly (or so) list of the best posts and articles on the topic; a weekly "Top Ten," if you will.

Also, I removed some poetry (so called) that was posted by mistake.  I don't generally post stuff until I'm confident of its quality and readiness for publication.  Several items were posted in rought draft form, and frankly, I didn't catch it until recently.  Those items will also be kept in the vault until I feel that they are ready (and who knows when that will be).

I believe the "renovation" will be a good thing.  It will be a kinder, gentler blog, and not so much all-over-the-place.  Of course, all-over-the-place is how my mind works, so we'll see how it goes.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Call?? Perhaps Not.

I've been tossing around the idea that God may be calling me to a new direction, one that involves some sort of ministry that involves the Bible (big DUH, there) and husbands.

All of my research (yes, I actually research this stuff) leads me to two truths about being called by God:
  1. It involves an inner "rightness."  It has to feel like it's the right thing to do.  If it feels like it would be wrong, or contradictory to the Word of God (sin), then it isn't God's voice, it isn't the Holy Spirit, it isn't a "calling."
  2. It includes outward confirmation.  In some way, things have to work out to make it possible to do what is necessary to fulfill the call.  If too many things are working against you, then 
    • you likely are not being called by God, or
    • it is a call, and Satan doesn't like it.
What, then, am I to do with this?  I still feel an inward "rightness," but I'm not sure about the source of the resistance.

I suppose I just pray and wait.  and keep mum until I am sure.  No more spouting off about "husband should this, husbands shouldn't that.  At least, for now, I'm going to lay low on the topic for a while, until I know more about whether or not I should be doing this.


Monday, December 12, 2011


Can you make a distiction between God calling you to something and you thinking of something yourself?

God doesn't always call you to what you want to do.

And, God doesn't always call you to what you don't want to do.

A long time ago I was called by God to spread joy.  Simple.  I love it.  Been doing it ever since.

Now there is a tug of a different kind. 

The joy thing is still there, but there is something else with it, equally joyful and (potentially) awkward.

This will be my quandry for awhile.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Genuine ...

This morning in worship we heard a message about, among other things, the importance of being genuine.  "Genuine," in this case, refers to openness and honesty in our relationships with others.  I was shocked and convicted as I sat listening to the message and subsequent study group discussion.  I was struck with the realization that, often in the daily "blah, blah, blah" of life, I am not genuine in my relationships with others. 

In my daily exchange with people I give in all too often to fear.  Fear of conflict, fear of rejection, fear of unpopularity, fear of I-don't-know-what prevents me from saying what I mean.  I go through life suppressing my feelings, my thoughts, my desires.  Instead, I say things to pacify whoever is at the receiving end of my charming banter - students, family, friends, children, my wife. 

No more (he said, knowing full well that he was full of shit).

If I am going to do things God's way (and, at least I say that's what I want to do), then I have signifcant work to do.  I must eschew my current fear of how I will look in the eyes of others.  I must say what I mean.

Maybe that's the hidden reason behind my unexplained tremors, night sweats, weight gain, hypertension?

Or maybe I'm just a nervous, fat, sweaty, hyper old man.

Hmmmm....   I'm thinking the former.  I need to be more genuine in my life.  When I desire something, I must express that desire.  When I am upset, I must say so.  Happy?  I must let it show.  I must be the genuine person God created me to be.  No apologies.  No excuses.  No hiding.  No inhibition.

Ooh!  Ooh!  I just thought of an old children's song:

"Here I am.
Look at me.
I hope you like
the person you see ..."

There's more, of course, but I can't remember it at the moment (big surprise, huh?).

Look out, world, here I come ... the "genuine" ME.

(Oy vey!!)


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks. Period.

On this Thanksgiving Eve I am feeling a bit nostalgic, perhaps, feeling a tug on the old heartstrings as I am missing Mom and Dad, Nana (both of them) and Papap (both of them as well), and countless aunts, uncles, and cousins who would converge on a certain house on Chestnut Street for the annual turkey dinner. 

It all seemed so simple back then.  The kids played, the men discussed, and the women cooked.  Then we would all sit down at our tables (remember the "kids' table"?) and eat our fill until our overstuffed tummies could absorb not one more morsel.

Then came dessert.  Pumpkin, apple, and blueberry pies, brownies, chocolate candies, eggnog, soda, chocolate milk ...

I remember it as a time when everyone rejoiced just because we were together.  We paused from the hustle and bustle of life to offer our gratitude to God for everything in our lives, great and small.  

When I think back on all the holidays in all the years of my life, I have a particular soft spot for Thanksgiving. You see, of all the holidays worthy of celebration, there is only one that, as yet, has not been commercialized to the point of ruin.  Thanksgiving is still about being thankful.  It is still about being with family and showing genuine gratitude for the things we have and the people with whom we share our lives.

It isn't about giving and receiving presents, or staying up late to drink, or loud, colorful rocket thingies (Oooo!  Ahhhh!).  It isn't about making reservations and spending a tremendous wad of cash (or credit) that we don't have and can't easily pay for.

It's about giving thanks.  Period.  That why it's my favorite.

Oh, yeah, and the food is usually pretty good, too. 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Right There on the Playground ...

(*The names have been changed to protect people's identities*)

"Hey Mr. B, guess what?  Pinky got saved yesterday!"

"Cool!  When did this happen?"

"At recess, on the playground"  Sticks and HornBoy and I helped her."


This was the conversation at the end a clarinet lesson this morning. I'm blessed to have a job in which I can get to know my students this well. And it's a double blessing to see them leading their classmates to Jesus and caring enough to make sure the job gets done, even if it's right there on the playground.

                                       Welcome to the family, my new sister in Christ, "Pinky."

Monday, November 14, 2011


I wonder what goes on in that head of his, when he's lying upside down, writhing and growling like he's having some sort of drug-induced fit.  I wish he could talk.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Random Disgusting Thought About Saxophone Reeds.

Sax reeds ...

1. I walk around with a sax reed in my mouth for much of the day.

2. I have what feels like the beginning of a head cold.

What do these two things have to do with each other? 

I’m forever breaking in new reeds, with the hope of finding a pearl in the dirt.  Well, I think I found it.  This morning I was breaking in a Vandoren Java 3 ½ .  A really nice reed. As with any reed, I tend to walk around with it, hanging from my lower lip, from which I take it and suck the extra saliva from it, then turn it over (gross, I know, but it has to be done). 

Anyway, in my rush to use the restroom before my saxophone student arrived, I stepped into the men’s room with said reed dangling from my lip.  As I stood there I thought to myself,

“What if I sneeze right now, and this reed would fall into the commode?”
What a quandary!  Would I fish the thing out and wash it? Would I forget about it and flush?   Like I said, it’s a REALLY NICE REED. 

What would you do?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Very Blessed, Indeed

Yesterday morning we had a fire in our furnace.  It's alright, because we were able to escape to safety, and, aside from a bit of smoke inhalation, no one was injured.  The furnace can be repaired quite easily.  Besides, it isn't our house - we're just renting it temporarily until we repair our home, which was severely damaged by flood waters at the beginning of September.  The flood damage, too, can be repaired.

No matter what my woes - trashing a bunch of ruined furniture and appliances, wearing soot covered clothing, having my pay docked because I took time to clean my flooded house, driving a car that doesn't have a bumper or windshield wipers - they pale in comparison to other people's problems.

All of my current problems can be repaired.

My friends just lost their baby boy, only a few days old.  Their heartbreak cannot be easily repaired.
Another dear friend lost her husband last night.  Her heartbreak cannot be easily repaired.
A dear friend from work lost his battle with leukemia.  His students' grief and heartbreak cannot be easily repaired.

The next time I think about whining and complaining because my car needs more duct tape or my socks smell like kerosene, I hope I will consider others and their troubles, and consider myself very blessed.  Yes, very blessed, indeed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blessings in the Midst of Disaster

When the river overflows its banks, the full, destructive power of water can clearly be seen  For our family the recent flooding has been devastating in terms of property damage and the separation of our family unit.

However, the Lord is good, and He has shown us His amazing grace in the midst of this terrible disaster.  There are so many people who have given us support and have lifted us up in prayer, we cannot possibly remember all of them.

  • We had a little bit of warning prior to this flood.  We had a surprise visit from our church family, who got most of our furniture out of harm's way.
  • We drove out of our street calmly; we didn't have to run for our lives like the last time.  The streets were still dry when we evacuated.  There weren't rescue boats floating on our street.
  • The Lord provided a warm, dry place for us to stay, and nutritious food to eat.
  • We were given a wonderful church family who are living the Word of God, by being family to us.  We are truly blessed to "do life" together with faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • Our electric was restored in record time.  The Lord sent us an electrician who refused to charge us one dime to rewire the entire panel.  
  • Our former church family generously offered space to store our furniture.
  • I have a capable substitute teacher who was able to step in and take over a very complicated program and schedule, and do so seamlessly.
  • I have friends who are tireless in their efforts to help, showing up every single day to do whatever they can, from making sandwiches to running errands washing and bleaching toysThey show up every day to help.
  • Volunteers and community organizations who drive around offering bottled water, dry ice, food, coffee (yippee), mops, buckets ... you name it.

Today was a very good day of work at the house.  There weren't many people who came out to help, but the work was productive and useful, unlike yesterday when I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the job before me, and threw my hands up.

Today we took our two oldest children to the house with us so they could contribute to the restoration of our home.  By the end of the day they were covered in mud and water.  Both of them have work gloves now, his are gray, hers are pink.  They squeegied  the garage floor so I can return the tools to their places. Then they cleaned some toys and help their mom empty the shed.

Some church family showed up to touch base and see what we needed today.  One gave us an envelope of money.  We will use the money to buy a dehumidifier for the basement (God is good, all the time).

My wife dealt with the mess in the shed and all the little items that were shoved upstairs when we evacuated.  Then she, along with a very good friend, began to triage (what to keep / what to throw)  and clean the items in the front yard.  What a trooper - there are some items that are difficult to part with, and she is doing a great job - much better than I would do.  That's why God gave her to me.  I lover her more than I can say.

My "adopted" dad came over to disconnect the dishwasher and cap the wires.  Then he stayed to help with the delicate "cutting around" of the built-in bookcase.  The pastor came over to do the painstaking work of chiseling around the bookcase and removing the back from the inside, then cutting drywall and removing insulation. He saved the bookcase.  He didn't stop there.  He also took care of pressure washing the garage and back porch and finished removing the kitchen cabinets. 

At the end of the day our neighbors invited me to their porch for some good conversation and a drink (vodka and cranberry juice, to be exact).  A much needed diversion to end a productive day.


Oh, yeah one more blessing that I forgot about ...

Someone backed my wife's van into the side of our friend's car, leaving a dent the size of the Grand Canyon (slight exaggeration) .

His response?
"Don't worry about it.  As long as it still runs, I don't care." 

God is good.  All the time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Wife Always Hated That Chair.

My office chair.  Comfortable, soft.

Now it's trash.  My wife always hated that chair anyway.

The day began in church, praying and worshiping and asking for wisdom and guidance  in our flood recovery endeavors.  I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love from our church family.

We were able to remove moldings, flooring, and 2 feet of wall from the entry, living room and dining room.

The basement was cleared of most of the debris, and appliances (washer, dryer, water heater, dehumidifier).

The garage is, for the most part, empty and washed out.

We had a visit from code enforcement today.  I gave the inspector the grand tour and he didn't find any structural damage this time (Praise the Lord),  which is a HUGE improvement over the last flood, when the main beam had to be replaced.

Also, the wiring will not have to be replaced, but the circuit breakers, switches, outlets, and light fixtures will have to be replaced, if they were submerged in water.  This is also a huge improvement over the last flood.

A major challenge will be to find workers who are registered with the village.  The mayor of Sidney, while he is a friend of mine, is standing firm on this registration business, which will limit the number of contractors and extend the time frame for families to return to their homes. 

Tomorrow we tackle the kitchen (I think) and downstairs bathroom.  Also, I believe that the built-in bookcase will in fact have to be removed and junked.  There simply isn't a satisfactory way to get under and behind it to let the wall breathe.

I want to thank God, and all the volunteers who came out today to help with mud, debris, cutting walls, removing insulation, making sandwiches, spaghetti, and desserts, delivering water and dry ice, hoisting appliances out of the basement, and otherwise being eager to get muddy and disgusting for me, "just because I asked them to."

This crew ROCKED today!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Flood Notes, September 10, 2011

I woke up in a cold sweat at 4AM.  I did the usual "wake up in the middle of the night" stuff ... bathroom, drink of water, check on the kids, go back to bed.  There was just one problem.  I couldn't sleep, no matter how hard I tried to empty my mind, no matter how many "happy thoughts" I thunk.  Nothing.  Nada. Just panic.  Full-blown panic. 

After the flood of '06, I made too many mistakes in the cleanup and rebuilding process.  It cost us several months of displacement and separation.  I don't want to do that again.  I want this time to be different.  Easier.  It should be easier, right?  We've been through this before.

One of the things that is plaguing my mind is the built-in bookcase in the living room.  It's about four years old, and is built over the finished floor, and partially over two insulated, outside walls.  My wife loves this bookcase.  I don't want to tear it out if it will hurt her to do so, but I don't want hidden mold to fester behind and under the thing, either.

The Traveller's Flood Insurance commercials crack me up, especially the one in which the guy is being fitted for a tailor-made suit.  It isn't really like that with flood insurance.  They come in and take pictures (*note to self - leave a piece of wall with a visible water line so the adjuster can take a picture), then three weeks later they send you a detailed report that you have to sign and return within 10 days.  Then in about two weeks you get a check for 25% of the estimate.  As the work continues, you must prove that the work is being completed, and another check arrives ... for another 25%.  And so on, and so on.   Oh, yeah, and you can't hire a contractor unless you are able to pay at least 1/2 up front.  Nice, huh?  

Anyway, that's why I wasn't able to sleep.  And that's why I'm still shaking now, at 8:25 AM.  Still shaking, still sweating, still hyperventilating.

10:40 ... We decided to try again today.  We'll stop at the checkpoint and ask if Weir Street is open.  If so, we're gonna start tearing out the walls.

11:00 ... We sat down with Jeff and Sharon for some much needed prayer and discussion time to work out logistical issues.  It's a big adjustment for all of us.  Hopefully a VERY temporary one.  Anyway, it's necessary and smart to discuss possible issues and to pray for guidance and help.


12:00 I went to the house.  The street was dry and and the driveway was muddy.  I went in and emptied the freezer in the kitchen, bagging and taking everything out to the curb.  Then I began prying away some molding from the entry way and some of the Pergo from the floor.  I found the Pergo very easy to remove after the initial plank is loosened. 

Some neighbors came in to assess my damage and offer words of advice. 

Some of my help was in Prattsville today, as they didn't think (nor did I) that our water would have receded so quickly.

I quickly became weary of the overwhelming task but kept working at my own inimitable pace, tearing off a molding, pulling a piece of flooring stacking and taking it outside, etc.  When I looked around at 4:30 I was amazed at how little I actually accomplished today.

Pastor Brian called to tell me he was coming to help me.  Then he called a few minutes later to tell me that he wasn't allowed in to help because he isn't a property owner.

4:20 ... I decided to stop and go to dinner at the Sidney Middle School with my family.  There was an informational meeting afterward and I wanted to be there to get info about disaster relief services, etc.


7:30 ... The meeting was very informative.  I asked a bunch of questions and received good answers.  I know how to register for FEMA relief, and I am VERY relieved to know that I will not have to rewire the entire house again this time. 


7:45 ... We took a long walk with the kids and the dog.  It was a very good night for a walk.

Church and more tear-out tomorrow.

I would like to talk to Dad.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Flood notes, September 9, 2011

Couldn't sleep all night.  Too much going through my mind.
  • Did the water come up to the first floor or did it stay in the basement. 
  • How long will we be displaced?
  • Will our family have to be separated again?
  • There isn't a place for the kids to play ... just mud, mud everywhere.
  • Should I call a contractor?  Should I do that now, or should I wait until we see the damage?
  • Is ServePro worth the huge price tag to clean the mud out of the house?
  • How am I going to go back to work, deal with a whole new situation there, AND work on the house at the same time??
  • I want to talk to Dad.
I went upstairs for breakfast.  Jeff made scrambled eggs, toast, and sausage gravy.  I could get used to the  wonderful food, but I'm afraid of my waistline.  We watched a little TV, and took a few phone calls.

Our friends who pastor the church down the street called to let us know that the water did NOT reach their first floor, and that they tried to wade over to our house, but they weren't able to get through.  Then all the "gloom and doom" talk started.

While I know that it's good to be realistic, it's also good to walk away when my ears and mind can't take anymore pessimism.  So I came back downstairs to check my email and answer a few messages.  We'll walk back down to "Check Point Charlie" this afternoon and find out some accurate information, if there is any, and to check the current water levels.

1:30PM ... We decided to throw caution to the wind and take a walk to our house, come hell or high water (pun intended). When we arrived at "Checkpoint Charlie," we were turned away.  The policeman said "we aren't letting people in there to go sightseeing."  I could understand his thinking.  After all, I was sporting a very stylish over-the-shoulder camera bag, and my wife had a heavy duty flashlight.

Susan  was not quite as understanding as I (understatement).  Ahem ... anyway ...

We decided to take a different tactic (yeah, we're capable of that) and were able to get in.

4PM ... we just got back from an adventure.  We took a little "walk" through waist-deep water and were able to get inside our house.  So much to take in ...  
  • The basement door was ajar, so I opened it.  There were 2 cans of insect spray floating in water at the top step.  
  • There is a dark water line approx. 6 inches up the wall.  The walls will have to be torn out.'
  • There isn't any water in the kitchen drawers.  Susan was able to open it (a bit difficult because of slight warping, but it opened).  The cabinets may be salvageable. 
  • There was too much water in the driveway and backyard - I didn't dare try to make it to the garage.  
We aren't happy about all this, but at least we know where we stand, and we can develop a realistic plan of attack.  We are armed with the knowledge we gained from the previous flood, so we are going to take logical steps this time, instead of listening to all the misinformation.

5PM ... put chicken spiedies on the grill (Yes, we STILL have to eat, so why not grill?).

6PM ... Got a call from my pastor friend.  He passed on a number of someone who had another number to call, and I was able to get our house added to a list of home that will have their basements pumped out, starting Sunday morning. 

6:30PM ... chicken spiedies, mashed potatoes, garden-fresh green beans.  Yummo!!

7:30PM ... Got a call from a friend who said I should call him the very moment we are allowed in the house, and he will come and pump out our basement.  Maybe faster than the fire department. :)

8:15 ... We were just informed that we should throw away the clothing we were wearing when we trudged through the water today, because of chemicals that may be in the water.  Over-reaction?  I don't know.  

I want so much to make it all better ...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tropical Storm Lee and the Flood of 2011 - Part 1

It is difficult to put into words all the emotions a person feels at the moment the fireman knocks on the door and gives the official evacuation order. This time we had enough time to mobilize a crew and get most of the important items out of the house, or at the very least, higher, onto the second floor. 

It started out as a nerve-wreaking day to begin with, as it was the first day of school in upstate New York.  I was nervous and so were the students.  The rain was steady, and there were the typical flood advisories given throughout the morning.  Somehow, and I'm not exactly sure how, it became clear that this day would end badly. 

I heard from another teacher that we would have an early dismissal due to minor flooding.

Then another teacher came to my door and told me to move my car, because the bridge was almost out. 

Okay, the red flag was officially raised at that point.  I went outside and stepped across the covered bridge to the faculty parking lot (normally a very pleasant stroll).  The creek was raging below and I could hear debris slamming into the bottom of the bridge, which, at that point, was only a few feet from the water below.

I got in the car, moved it out of harm's way, and went back into the school building. 

After the students were dismissed, I found out that teachers were expected to remain in the building until they were officially dismissed.  My heart sank, because I knew that my wife and children were probably in full panic mode at home.  Also, I realized at that moment, that I might not be able to make it home because of the many washed out roads in the county.

When I got home, I found that many books were already transported upstairs, and that the china cabinet (saved and restored from the last flood, in 2006) was being emptied and the contents taken upstairs. 

Suddenly, the doorbell rang.  It was the neighbor.  He had just come from the fire house, where he was told that the river was expected to crest at the same level as in 2006, when we lost almost everything we owned. 

Great.  Just great.

Here's where God began to work.

In a few minutes the doorbell rang again.  This time it was a man from our church who was offering the services of his three teenaged sons, to carry everything upstairs, and otherwise help us save as much stuff as possible.  Then a trailer showed up to carry our sofa to safety.  Coolers to empty the freezer, a place to stay, and many hands to get all of the children and pets to safety, the power tools out of the garage, and the bikes up high.

That was last night around 8 o'clock.  Now it is tonight, and it has been an entire day with no sight or word of any kind about our house. 

I took a walk to the flood zone, along with my camera.  The roads were closed and flooded.  Everyone stood in awe, much like they did the last time, taking pictures and chatting with each other.  I saw a few of our neighbors there and talked to some police officers and the D.E.C.  They informed me that the river would crest at approx. 7PM, and that my house was most assuredly under water at that point.  

Anyway, that is the story so far.  I wish I had more to tell.  I'll continue this chronicle later, when I know more and have seen more.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Garage That Ate My Summer ...

It has been a glorious summer, for the most part.  Glorious, that is, except for this one nagging task that has been looming over my head.  It's something that I have been asked to do time after time after time, but I still haven't done.  It's an item on the "to do" list that has yet to make it's way onto the "to-done" list.

And the fact that I haven;'t done it has given me a gnawing, guilty feeling that has damaged my summer attitude.

What a shame.

You see, I have this garage ... actually it's more of a small barn with a garage door. And my wife will gladly tell you, it looks much better with the door closed than open.  Much better.  (I'm forbidden to post a picture, it's that bad.) 

Over the last few years I have accumulated an overabundance of stuff that has been allocated to garage storage; so much stuff that the situation has reached its tipping point.  Actually, the tipping point came last year, when I was unable to locate a wrench. A wrench......My KINGDOM FOR A WRENCH!!!

(I digress ...)

The garage has been a sore subject for a long, long time.  It has been on my mind so much that I have had moments of guilt, panic, anger (at my own lazy self), hopelessness, etc ... you name it, I have felt that emotion - about my garage.  This summer, especially, it has been on my mind.  Not because I spend every waking moment thinking about it like a boy thinks about his true love, but because it sits there at the end of the driveway, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month ... mocking me ... giving me the finger ... and damaging what would otherwise be a fantastic summer.

I realize that it's my own fault.

I know without a shadow of doubt that the whole building has to be cleaned and organized. If only I would just DO IT!!   I have tried.  I've gone out there and looked around.  I've made mental notes (and sometimes actual physical notes) about what has to go where and how much stuff has to be sold or given away.  I have removed items and organized parts of the garage, and piled the surplus items elsewhere in the garage.

Basically the whole thing is a gigantic mess.  It's impossible for me to find anything, and it's a complete embarrassment to my wife.

You see, my wife's personality is a cross between a magnifying glass and a paper clip, whereas mine falls somewhere in the slinky / teddy bear category.   She likes things to be properly organized and stored, and I just pile stuff all over the place.  I'm not exactly a horder, but I am a piler.  I make piles.  Of everything.  Everywhere.  It's what I do.  It's a wonder she lets me live. 

I think the problem is laziness multiplied by the enormity of the task ... it's just too much to think about and it's having an impact on this old, worn-out brain (*cue sappy violin music*).  I am easily overwhelmed, and as a result, I get very little accomplished when faced with large tasks (like cleaning the garage).

So,  maybe ... just may - be, if I don't think of it as "cleaning the garage," but instead concentrate on a section at a time, like "the stuff on the floor in the front of the garage," and organize that, and take a break, then go for another part, and a break, and another, and a break, etc ... the whole thing might be organized by this weekend.

Ya think???

Hey - it's worth a try.  Anyway, I have to do something about it so I can get it off my mind and enjoy what's left of this glorious summer.

***Special Notice***

Due to the inflammatory nature of some comments to my last blog post, I have taken the post offline.  It isn't my intention to draw attention to my "dire circumstances," nor to seemingly plead for pity.  I seek only to share what is on my heart and mind.  However, the last post seemed to draw unacceptable comments from otherwise reasonable people who have been regular readers of Tenorboy Journal.  I truly regret the necessity to remove an item that is protected under the First Amendment, but I must also protect the integrity of my blog, my own intellectual property.  Thank you for your understanding.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Camping, Drinking, and Raining

There's a notable Sondheim song, part of which goes, "A weekend in the country would be charming, and the air would be fresh."

That's what my feeling was when we decided to venture out as a family to attend the annual church camp-out, with our three-room cabin tent.  The weekend started off splendidly, as we arrived and saw many of our friends, some with campers, some with tents, some just coming for dinner and the campfire - then heading home.  Couples, families, singles, all join together for one lovely weekend in the country.

We unpacked the tent and I set it up with the help of one of the teens from the church.  Air mattresses were inflated, clothing and food were organized, and dinner was prepared and eaten ... chicken spiedies, salt potatoes, salad, and corn on the cob that was so good I wanted to weep as I feasted on its sweet, juicy goodness.

Just after dinner, someone spoke the words to me that I had been thinking since our arrival.  It was a passing comment, but one that she knew would be appreciated by someone like me.  It was something along the lines of "You know what I could use right about now? A good, stiff drink."

Boy, did she get that one right.

(*GASP*) A drink??  At a Baptist church campout????

It isn't that the evening wasn't wonderful, because it was. The conversations were deep, the fire was delightful, the music was fun, the whole evening had that "ahhhhhh......" factor.  Then we retired to the tent for the evening.

I coulda used that drink ...

Big Sister ate too much fruit at dinner, and had to go to the bathroom ... eight times between midnight and 6AM.  Each time she woke up to do her business, she woke everyone in the tent as she exited and entered.  Yes, each time.  Aside from the natural inability to sleep on the first night of a camping trip, this was too much for me to take.  And I can take a lot.

If only I had a stiff drink ...

Big Sister's active bladder wasn't the only call of nature we heard that night.  Some were beautiful sounds of God's wonderful kingdom.

A pack of coyotes howling.  Their calls were faint at first, then closer, then much closer ... then they ran away.
Crickets - singing and singing all night long.
Raccoons having a little tiff just outside of our tent.
A blood-curdling scream from the tent next door (I won't get into that right now).

All God's creatures.

At 6AM we finally fell asleep.  One of the other men got up early (6:15ish) to prepare breakfast.  It was delicious.  scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, fresh brewed coffee.  Another "ahhhhh ..."

As the day wore on, a slight drizzle began to sprinkle the campground with a dainty mist.  No big deal.  However, the sprinkle soon turned into a drizzle and the drizzle turned into a pour.  Add to this the fact that we were suffering from sleep deprivation (thanks to a certain 11 year-old and her teeny weeny bladder) ...

Boy could I have used a stiff drink.

We knew the writing was on the wall.

We packed it in shortly after noon on Saturday.  We pulled up the stakes and went home.  The tent is up, in the backyard.  We are hoping there will be a day or so without rain, so the poor thing can dry out and be properly stored until our next weekend in the country.

Are we ready to go camping again?  Absolutely, and soon!  But the next time, I'm going to have a good, stiff drink.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pizza Soup

OK, folks.  Here it is - the ever popular, much ballyhooed  "Pizza soup" recipe. We first had this soup when some cherished friends had us over for dinner.  It was so good that we decided to give it a place in our family cookbook, including it often when we plan our weekly meals.  We made a  slight change, with the addition of a small amount of pasta, and occasionally a bag of frozen spinach, when we have it on hand.  

Pizza Soup


2 cans chicken broth (or 4 cups homemade)
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 small can pizza sauce
2 medium zucchini (sliced)
1 red or green pepper (chopped)
pepperoni slices (thin)
1/2 cup small, tubular pasta (we use elbows or ditalini)
mozzarella cheese

Put everything but pepperoni and cheese in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered about 8 - 10 minutes. Add pepperoni and simmer another 1 - 2 minutes. Serve, topped with mozzarella on each bowl.

Monday, July 25, 2011

James 1

There are times when I am too lazy to share things on my blog because of the amount of writing that is required to adequately explain the topic.  This is one of those topics; I have so much to share that I am overwhelmed and I don't know where to start or how much to write.

A bible passage has been speaking to me in recent weeks; Several weeks ago Pastor Brian spoke about how we are blessed with adversities; the Christian radio preachers have been speaking about the same subject, and again yesterday during Mr. Jackson's message the Holy Spirit got a hold of me and said, "You must blog about this."

James 1:2-7
"2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord."

Do I "consider it pure joy" when things go wrong?  I would like to say "yes," but the truth is that I whine and complain like a real pro when things don't go exactly as I envision. "Considering it pure joy" ranks right up there with "in everything give thanks."  But even when I cry out to God in my frustration and anger, I know that He is using my situation for my own good.  So should I just smile and be happy (*insert Bobby McFerrin music*)?  I don't infer that meaning from this passage.

Instead, the joy comes from knowing that the outcome will be good.  Gold must be refined in a hot fire in order to be purified. The same is true for me in particular.  .For example:

  • When my gf dumped me harshly and suddenly, I didn't exactly view the incident with joy.  I was angry and upset, and I was convinced of, and began living, my inevitable bachelorhood.  Until ... years later God gave me a stunningly beautiful woman who turned out to be the love of my life.  She was there all the time, being prepared for me right before my eyes, but I never knew it until the time was right.  Then the Lord said to me, "There she is."  Looking back now I can clearly see that my life would have been a disaster if I had followed my original path.  There is joy in my life, but first there had to be pain.
  • When my father retired and sold his insurance agency, I was guaranteed a position with the new company.  Then a few weeks before the deal was done, they sent their business manager to tell me that, after devoting eleven years of my life to the job,  my services would no longer be needed.  Effective immediately.  I was not exactly joyful; I was angry and frustrated and scared. But the Lord knew that I would not be happy as an insurance agent.  I sat at my part time jobs for a long time until I discovered my true calling.  Then I withdrew my life savings, continued my education, and never looked back. I have found great joy as a music teacher, but first I had to endure the pain of losing my job.
  • When we bought our home, I had ZERO experience with home improvement projects.  Sure, I could use a screw driver and a hammer, but the real stuff was best left to the professionals.  Then a flood destroyed most of our house.  Needless to say, I was less than joyful.  But God intended it for good. After we were able to think clearly, He sent people to help us; they didn't fix our house, but they taught us how to fix our house.  It has been five years since the '06 flood, and I can say that I am no longer intimidated by home improvement.  I have tools and am able to use them correctly.  I would not have learned these things if we had not been through a natural disaster.  The joy was in the outcome.  
  • In September my job will undergo a dramatic change.  I will have to learn new skills in order to teach subjects for which I feel hideously unprepared.  When I was told of the change, I was angry and afraid.  In light of the recent messages and the study of James 1, I am confident that, if I listen to god and allow Him to refine me, the outcome will be joyful!    
Below is a link to a song that explains the emotion behind this scripture better than I can.

Be joyful!!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I'm told that I have amazing composure and that I'm incredibly calm in a crisis.While that may be true, it isn't something that I would wish on anyone.  The sort of composure I possess is not something a person is born with.  It is a process that unfolds as events occur in life. It's the kind of thing that develops ...
  • when your older siblings tease relentlessly, and your parents don't stop them.
  • when the school bully follows you home and you have to be brave.
  • when your childhood friend dies on the same day you have an important job interview.
  • when you sneeze all over the microphone in front of 500 people.
  • when your ex-girlfriend brings her new boyfriend to see your show.
  • when you're called out in front of your friends.
  • when Mom catches you doing something naughty ... then tells your sister.
  • when you get a traffic ticket in front of your own house.
  • when you have to go to school the day after your grandfather dies.
  • when you get the news of your grandmother's death while at a graduation party for a friend's daughter.
  • when you have to stand up and tell a crowd of people something they don't want to hear.
  • when your boss smiles as she hands you the pink slip.
  • when a flood takes away everything you own.
  • when the baby is born blue and your wife is hysterical.
  • when the car breaks down in the middle lane of the highway.
  • when you're in front of a fourth-grade class and you get the news of your father's death.
These are some of the events that assist in developing amazing  composure.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Remember ...

Our family spent this week at the beach.  That isn't unusual, as we gather every year at this time in the same house on the same beach for a week of swimming, shopping (where would we be without the boardwalk), eating, playing, and conversation.

Honestly, the beach doesn't thrill me like it used to.  With so many children to watch, it's difficult if not impossible to actually swim in the ocean.  It generally consists of getting wet up to my knees, except for one glorious 1/2 hour when I'm able to go all the way past the breakers and enjoy the ocean.  Aside from that one short extravagance, the sun is hot, I sweat like a pig, I get sand in my shorts, and I can't breathe from the heat.

However, the beach holds a place in my heart that I can't explain.  I'm drawn to it for reasons unknown to me.  It must stem from the memories I hold of family vacations when I was a child.  I remember so many things - some are vivid pictures and some are dull visions.

I remember ...
  • Dad - the typical American tourist, with a Mickey Mouse shirt, shopping bag, camera bag, BIG hat, BIGGER sunglasses, gold watch, brown socks, and wing-tip shoes.
  • Atlantic City - Mom's purse was stolen on the beach.  Didn't ruin the vacation, we just didn't get souvenirs. 
  • All the kids got kazoos at Woolworth's, and we marched down the Boardwalk humming "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know."
  • Digging for sand crabs.
  • Camping - no one was allowed to use the bathroom until the entire campsite was set up.
  • Camping on the beach in Florida
  • That place at the end of that rickety, little pier where we got fried clams.
  • Morey's Pier and Steele Pier (and the diving horse - way cool)
  • "Watch the tram car, please."
  • Mr. Peanut
  • Fralinger's taffy and Steele's fudge (I liked to watch them make fudge in the window).
  • Going out for breakfast.
  • The big rocking chairs on the porch at the Havilla (the oldest building on the island) 
    • Sitting on those big rockers, talking until the wee hours
  • Miniature golf
  • Lucy the Giant Elephant
I hope that when my children grow up, they will remember the big things and the little things we did when we were on vacation.  I hope that, even though the traditions are quite different, they hold onto the memories and pass them on to their children.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Who's Praying For Casey?

I'm sure that most of you have followed at least part of the Casey Anthony trial on television, whether is was the entire trial or just the excerpts that were shown on the news channels.  The case has certainly sparked lively conversations around town, in bars, on the street corner, even at my own kitchen table.

Whoever I talk to, the same mood is set, and the same questions are raised:

  • How could a mother kill her own child?
  • How could she wait so long to report the child missing?
  • She should be executed for murder.
  • She's a heartless monster to go out partying while her child lay dead in the trunk of her car.
Yes, these are all valid question, but I also have a question:

Who is praying for Casey Anthony?  Is anyone bowing before God to pray for the soul of this woman?  Isn't that what we are supposed to do?  Aren't we supposed to pray and witness and win the lost for Jesus? 

Why are we turning our porch lights on for Caylee?  Why are we praying for her?  She doesn't need our prayers - she's in the arms of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, where she doesn't feel any pain or need anything that we can offer her. 

Here is what I propose:

Pray for Casey's soul.  Pray that she finds peace. Pray that she discovers joy in her life, in her family, in her work (whatever form it may take).  Pray that her family heals and that she becomes a part of their circle again. Pray for her parents, her brother, the friends that were deceived.  Pray for all of their souls, that they might accept Jesus and be reunited with Caylee in Heaven.

Are you praying for Casey?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

An Organized Garage Is A Happy Garage

Every project I start gets interrupted by someone or something at some point.  The firepit is no exception.  Only this time there was a very good reason for the unintended hiatus.  I had to cut some wood to frame in the bricks for the pit, but I couldn't ... um ... get to the miter saw.

You see, my garage has been the tragic victim of neglect for quite some time now, and the tip-toe dance to get from one end to the other had to stop.  Today.

I hauled a lot of junk out of the garage and onto the driveway and began throwing things into the van to be dumped over the riverbank ... I mean ... taken to the dump. There were a bunch of tree branches, some of which had been cut into smaller pieces for campfires, and the larger ones split and stacked.  The weeds, however, were another story.  There they were in the middle of the driveway, taking up the precious space I needed to organize the contents of the garage.

Are you starting to catch on?  The garage project was successfully interrupted by the dumping of weeds and trash over the riverbank at the appropriate depository.  As I realized that my stomach was grumbling and the sun was setting, I stuffed all the stuff back into the garage until tomorrow, when I will begin the entire process again.

Another productive day.

Just a Bunch of Ramblings

OK, I'm gonna think out loud for a while.  Please don't take offense.

I took two (2) walks today; one to drop off my wife's van, and another to pick up the same van. .  Engine light, leak in a hose, $30 repair - no big deal. 

Walking gives me a chance to be alone and think, an interesting and dangerous thing.  Why don't my thoughts just leave me alone?  Why do I feel this constant prodding of unfinished business?  I thought I got my answer and I was dealing with it.  Why do I still hear that small voice telling me to proceed? 

I won't do it.  Things are getting back to normal. Let's leave well-enough alone.

What do you do when you can't get the Holy Spirit to stop prodding you?  What if no one else recognizes the truth that He is trying to tell you?  WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?!!??

Sorry for yelling.  I'm disturbed right now and I am unable to speak fully about it, only in small chunks so as not to offend.

I'm going to have to find a creative way to vent and release the pressure valve.  I'll probably go back to my secret place to deal with it alone.  I didn't think I'd have to do that anymore.  I thought I was making progress.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Build A Shelter ... And Sit Under It.

My first day of summer vacation was fairly productive, though the list continues to grow. *Hi Honey!*  I've wanted a roof over the deck since we bought this place in '03 but we couldn't afford one.  This year I designed a contraption made entirely of run-of-the-mill hardware store PVC and an 8' x 10' heavy duty tarp.  Pretty smooth, don't ya think? The boys and I put it up today, along with two top-of-the-line resin adirondack chairs.  They thought it was extremely cool when it rained and they didn't get wet.

I still have to build stairs down to the backyard from the back of the deck and knock out the rail.  That will have to wait for another day.

Project number 2 involved a creative way to dress-up the grave of our 16 year old dog.  We wanted to do something functional and pretty, as well as make it difficult for the new puppy to dig up the old pooch. 
A place to have backyard campfires seemed appropriate because it would remind us of all the campfires we had with our old husky, and would be a gathering place for our family to make new memories.

In all my first day of vacation worked out pretty well.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go sit under my shelter.  TTFN!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Photo Art

I went for a walk before Big Brother's baseball game today.  I happened to have my camera along and I found some cool subjects for b&w shots!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Journey Is Mine Alone

My journey through life is mine alone.  The Lord has led me by His Spirit down many well-trodden paths, deep valleys, high mountain tops, and a number of passageways unknown to me.  I learned that everyone journeys alone; no one has entire companionship.  Even when someone comes along for a while, before long I am, again, unaccompanied. 

God surrounded me with wonderful people.  He blessed me with a beautiful help meet, a loving family, and great friends; I am beginning to recognize that we exist side-by-side, yet lead separate lives. The intimacy I desire on earth (physical, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional) may well remain unfulfilled during my life; though my heart was otherwise led for a moment, I might never be known or know someone truly, completely, but momentarily as we connect along the way. 

So, with a high purpose, a bruised but hopeful spirit, and a freshly humbled heart, I travel on, asking very little.  I will acquiesce to the solitude of the journey as well as the closeness when offered, seeking largely comfortable paths, and in so doing, endeavor to cause no harm.   

The journey is mine alone.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Cup of Coffee

Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.  
~ Proverbs 15:16 ~

What do I really want?  I mean really, really want? Why do I want these things?  When I want a cup of coffee, why do I get the large instead of the small?  Why do I look at my neighbor’s car and wish I could have something that nice

Why do I want a new car?  I have transportation to work.  Isn’t that what I really want?  I want new shoes, pants, shirts, ties, etc. (OK, maybe I don’t want any new ties).  I already have clothing to protect me and keep me warm.  Isn’t that what I really want? 

This morning I watched the YouTube video “Life Is Like A Cup Of Coffee.” (If you haven’t seen it, I posted the link below.)    The idea that we need “A,” but we want to have it packaged in “B” before we will enjoy it, is an astonishing eye-opener for me. 

For example, why do I drink my coffee from a Disney Dopey mug every morning?  Does the mug improve the flavor?  Why do we paint our houses with so many special trim colors?  Do the colors provide better protection against the elements? Would a single color offer less protection?  Could the house be painted faster, leaving more time to enjoy, say, another cup of coffee? Why do we pine after sleek, new cars?  Will we be better people if we own them? 

This principle applies not only to things, but also to other “non-stuff” wants and needs.  Countless people wait for the perfect conditions before they step out and do something they desperately want/need to do. They wait too long, or wait for the right “this” or “that” before reaching out to a friend, a relative, or a spouse, never making the effort to really understand the other person’s needs - too wrapped up in restrictions to bother trying.  The shame is the lost opportunity for a true, intimate connection.  Many folks wait too long and lose the chance forever.  Why wait for perfection before taking action?  Will the situation ever be right? 

OK … end of rant, I’m off the soapbox.  What do I intend to do?  I’m going to decide what I really want, and get it, then chuck out the rest.

I want:

  1. a closer walk with Jesus.
  2. to find a way to grow closer to my wife; I want us to know one other completely.
  3. my family to be gentle and loving to one another. 
  4. a comfortable home, compatible with our lifestyle.
  5. to be healthy and relaxed.

A short list.  Impossible?  Will I accomplish it, or give up in disgust?  Will I order my life to reflect the truly important things?  Will I continue to grow in my relationships?  Is it foolishness to think that I can simplify my life in this way?  I’ll have to get back to you on that. 

Meanwhile, I’m going to have a cup of coffee.   


Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Proud Moment ...

I just found this video among my computer files and I felt the need to share it.  I taught most of these kids from first grade up.  This was either a dress rehearsal or a school concert a year or so ago.  They have come a long way from elementary school. I'm was so proud to see them up there all sing-y and dance-y and stuff!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Small Summer Project

We’ve been sprucing up the yard, trimming bushes and trees, weeding and planting.  The two big projects this summer will be the campfire pit and a PVC roof over the deck.  With a little smart shopping and leftover parts from other projects, I think I can do both for around $100. 

For the deck cover - I have a bunch of 1-inch PVC pipe and fittings in the basement and garage that I can use for the roof part of the structure. The only thing I should have to buy is a custom heavy-duty white tarp for the top, and possible some screw caps and various clips.  Possibly a new saw, but I might still be able to use my old one. 

For the campfire pit – I bought some bags of sand, and I have a pile of stones behind the garage.  I’ll dig a shallow, square ditch layer the bottom with stones, then pour some sand and arrange the bricks ( I have most of the bricks I need, may have to buy a few). Then I’ll frame it with treated 1x4 lumber, pour sand over the top and brush it in.  After that I’ll put three cement blocks (already have ‘em) on the bricks, and set a steel washing machine drum (getting it from a friend) on top of the blocks, and voila – a fire pit!

Add a few chairs and some marshmallows, and we'll have a pretty cozy summer.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Girl and Her Puppy

At the end of March we got a new puppy.  I know, I know ... thousands of families get puppies, and isn't that big of a deal.  Of course, that's true ... mostly.

I say "mostly, " because the puppy has caused our oldest child to think of someone besides herself for a change.  She and the puppy have bonded in a way that I never thought I would see.
  • She feeds him
  • She takes him outside to do his "business"
  • She cleans up said "business," inside or outside the house
  • She plays with him
  • She disciplines him (without going overboard) when he's bad
The puppy is drawn to her - he goes to her when he has to go out, or when he's hungry or just wants to play.

This is an encouraging thing to see, because Big Sister has always been more than a little strong-willed, with a slight hint of bully on the side (when we took the family personality test, she came out as the lion).  Puppy has somewhat changed her attitude for the better, at least for the moment.  She is finally looking outside herself to meet someone else's needs in a very unselfish way.

That is a very big deal.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I wish I Had The Nerve - Part 2

Here is another song that I would perform if I could.  The subject is quite deep, yet so real, one can actually imagine being there.  He communicates the intimate lyrics superbly, and adds just the right amount of melancholy.  His piano skills ain't bad, either.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bucket List

I don't want to make a habit of this, but I'm going to link to a post on someone else's blog.  In his blog, Neal's Notepad, Neal Cordle explains in great detail the thinking behind his "bucket list," and why he crafted it differently than the usual list of "to have's" and "to do's."  You can read his full post here.

He gleaned four questions from Bobb Biehl to expand his list from the usual litany to:
  1. Who do I want to be? 
  2. What do I want to do? 
  3. What do I want to have? 
  4. Who do I want to help? 
This is such a cool idea that I'm actually toying with the idea of breaking

Monday, May 30, 2011

No More Pain!

Being married to an herbalist means having a vast collection of fresh and dried herbs that my better half mixes into rubs and tinctures (*insert "eye of newt / wing of bat" comment). These tinctures, rubs, teas, etc. are used to cure everything from insomnia to insect bites.

Her skills came in handy this morning, when I woke up unable to get out of bed and walk because

Friday, May 27, 2011

Opening Night

We had our opening night of Aladdin, Jr. yesterday.  Whenever you get a large group of children together to do a large production, it take a toll on your nerves, your patience, your mind. 

Aladdin, Jr. was no exception.  Juggling all the schedules of all the kids, state test schedules, choreographers and their schedules, malfunctioning sound systems, blown bulbs, tattle-tales, bullies, prima-donas, pukers, pizza deliveries, makeup, costumes, sets, etc...

And for what?

For an outstanding performance, that's what. The kids always (and I mean ALWAYS) rise to the occasion and perform like professionals on stage.  It was a magical night for them, and a proud moment for me.  I hope they carry that feeling with them ... always.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Bunch of Random Thoughts for Today

  • Flab is not "distinguished."  It's gross.
  • I really dislike unsweetened coffee.
  • I'm a piler.  Not disorganized, not sloppy, just a piler.
  • Some things will never happen, no matter how much wishing I do.
  • I need a new car.  Soon.
  • I'd like to make more money.
  • I love my wife more than any other person on Earth.
  • I have an exceptional wife and family. I don't show them my appreciation enough.
  • Sometimes you have to stop reaching for the impossible.
  • Breathe, breathe, breathe........
  • I'd like to be a great husband, but I'm too caught up in my own selfishness.
  • Too many opinions confuse me.
  • I would get a good night's sleep if I could stop these dreams.
  • I miss my brother and sisters. Also my college friends.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Things We Are Willing to Put Up With

I drive an old, green minivan to work every day.  It has balding front tires, no A/C, a bumper that is rusting off, a broken driver's side window switch, a blown rear wiper motor, and a faulty front wiper motor.  It's been that way for about 6 months.  In spite of all these issues, I continue to drive the beast to work every day.  To be honest, it's the front wipers that have caused the most anxiety in recent weeks.

You see, the little buggers only work on the high setting, and then they decide to stop, seemingly at will, in mid-swipe.  Then I have to get out and jiggle them back to life (when they're in the mood to come back to life).  With the rainfall we have experienced in NYS this year, it isn't a good idea too go traipsing around the mountains with a a stuck wiper in the middle af a pouring thunderstorm. 

But, it's my ride and I'm willing to put up with a lot to get to work.  Maybe, just may-be, someday I'll have a new car - one that functions properly and gets more than 15 mpg.  But until that day....

Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)

... Later!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I wish I had the nerve...

This is one of a long list of songs that, while it strikes a chord deep within me, I cannot perform. I wish I had the nerve to sing stuff like this when I was younger (it would have been cool to develop this intimate technique for an actual grown-up audience).  There is a heart wrenching swell of emotion that comes up from the depths when I listen to this song, and I don't know exactly why.  One can't help but feel it as the song plays.  Michael Johnson sings it straightforward and simple, yet with an understated melancholy that speaks to the heart of every man. I would give anything to have the depth of emotion to carry a piece like this.  

... Later!
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Food of love

We're having sort of a new creation for supper tonight.  I put some brown rice on the boil; the boiling liquid includes A LOT of garlic,onion and diced carrots.  I'm going to saute a few sausages along with a diced tomato, green beans and some Indian spices, then add the rice to the sausage and spices.  I hope it's good.

I'm trying to re-design the Bittner cuisine to be more heart healthy while remaining delicious.  I've tried many things to cut down on fat, cholesterol, carbs, etc. and I've come to the realization that no matter what I do, I cannot completely eliminate unhealthy foods from my family's diet, nor from mine.

The best I can do is take my existing recipes and use better choices when cooking, substituting where I can.
Bon apetite!

... Later!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Those Guys Made Me Think

We got rid of the old, tattered sofa yesterday.  Two guys came with a pickup truck, and carried it out of our house.  They were close friends, as was obvious by their conversation and demeanor.  They joked as they worked, like a couple of college buddies moving dorm furniture.  Ridiculous as it seems, those two guys made me think about my friends. 

The friends I have made over the last several years are very few, and not of my age.  Don't get me wrong; there is something very right and comforting about developing friendships across generations, sort of a mentor-mentee thing.  But a guy needs other guys of his own age and kind, just to "hang with."  Sadly, right now I don't have that in my life.  Other than my wife (Love you honey!!), there is no one my own age whom I can call any time of day or night to come over and hang out, or to talk through a tough problem, or to help me with ... whatever.  No conditions, no questions asked.

Maybe it's just a matter of putting myself out there... maybe not.  I don't know.  Anyway, that's today's thought.

... Later!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Begin Again ....

I started tracking my calories and fitness (AGAIN) through the website  I joined about five and a half years ago, and looked and felt all kinds of healthy.  However, when the flood of '06 hit, I stopped doing many healthy things and began to put my focus elsewhere.

Well, now I'm back, and I am going to try to keep it going this time.  Right now I weigh approx. 190.  My goal is to keep going until I am 140 (a good weight for my height of 5'6").

1 Corinthians 6: 19-20
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

SparkPeople: Make Your Life An Adventure

... Later!

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Words, Words, Words ....

I've been doing a great deal of writing lately, putting my deep, personal thoughts in a journal (certainly NOT in a public forum).  In doing so I discovered a "freeing up" of my attitude.  My thoughts are more cohesive and not so willy-nilly anymore. I have a more relaxed tone and demeanor, and I'm less likely to speak harshly.

In all, pretty good results from something as simple as writing things down for no one to see.

... Later!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

The results Are In!

Well, it turns out that I have high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Everything else seems pretty good for now.  The doctor prescribed Zocor (a statin drug), which I took to the pharmacy to be filled.  When I got home, my wife informed me of the dangers of statins, so now I don't know what to do.  I've been so entrenched in traditional medicine that it is difficult to let go and trust that a natural remedy will work.

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 

... Later!

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book or No Book?

I've been taking my netbook computer to church on Sunday mornings.  People look at me kind of strange when I open it up and start clicking away through the pastor's message. 

You see, my netbook has a digital Bible that allows me to view four different translation, side by side.  It also includes notes from Strong's Concordance, and the ability to insert those notes and/or any Bible verse into my study notes with a single mouse click.  In addition, It can zoom-in and zoom-out (a very handy feature for someone with bad eyesight like me).  Plus my kids think it's cool.

So, I will continue to carry my netbook with me into the holy place and click away as the pastor speaks. Let them stare.

... Later!
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I give up!

I'm about to give up on an important idea (well, it's important to me, anyway).  Giving up won't be easy, but after so many attempts and failures I've come to the conclusion that it won't come to fruition, ever.  So why should I go on torturing myself?In the grand scheme of things it will be for the best, even though I will always long for a different result.  I'll be (hopefully) stronger for having been wise enough to realize that I was chasing the wind.  I pray that I have the strength to walk away.

 ... Later!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Desert Island CD

A few months ago, my college friend mentioned his favorite recording. He seemed more than enamored with the music; he said it was his “desert island” CD, and that if he could only have one recording to listen to for the rest of his life, that would be the one.

I became fascinated with the idea and began a quest for my own “desert island” CD. No problem, right? Wrong.

As a person who has been exposed to such a wide variety of music (in-depth exposure), I found it tremendously overwhelming to think about all the music I’ve experienced with the purpose of narrowing the list to a single album or CD. It seemed impossible, and frankly, still is a daunting task.

I have narrowed the list to a few, but I still am unable to come up with a single recording that, if necessary, would be satisfy my ear artistically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, while also feeding my wild side, as I live out my remaining days on a desert island.

So, without further ado, here is my list thus far …

· The Stranger (Billy Joel)
· Vivaldi’s “Gloria” (Sir Neville Mariner – St Martin in the Field)
· Pure Schuur (Diane Schuur)
· Various songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s.

If I could combine these recordings into one, it would represent my “desert island” music. I’m sure there will be other songs that will sneak into my mind’s ear, and I will have to reconcile them to this list. As of this moment, however, these are they.

... Later!

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